Part 1: The Bride Selected from Natural Israel (1:2 – 5:1)

First Song (1:2 – 1:8)
The Bride’s Ardent Love and Becoming Humility

Bride1:2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.
Male companions1:3 Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.
Bride1:4 Draw me,
Female companions1:4 We will run after thee:
Bride1:4 The king hath brought me into his chambers:
Female companions1:4 We will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee
Bride1:5 I am black,
Female companions1:5 But comely,
Bride1:5 O ye daughters of Jerusalem, As the tents of Kedar,
Female companions1:5 As the curtains of Solomon.
Bride1:6 Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.
1:7 Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy ock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the ocks of thy companions?
Male companions1:8 If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents.

The first song finds the bride in prospect soliloquising about her ardent love for her groom. She is in the king’s chambers (1:4). The groom is not present and although her virgin companions are with her, she is entirely unabashed in articulating her love for him. She does not name the object of her devotion. She is so full of passion for him that she assumes that all those with her know of whom she is talking. Her desire is to greet her beloved with a genuine and fulsome kiss. This is not only as a reassurance of her love but as a reflection of the harmony they share (1 Pet 5:14; Rom 16:16). She confesses that his love “is better than wine”.

Wine represents many things. The significance that we are most familiar with is wine symbolising our Lord’s dedicated life and supreme sacrifice; something we focus on each first day of the week. Just prior to his crucifixion, he gave a new commandment to his disciples saying; “that ye [are to] love one and other; as I have loved you” and “by this (love) shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye also have love one to another” ( John 13:34-35). The bride is not only drawing our attention to the importance of his sacrifice but she is emphasising that it was his love for us that led him to the cross; his love was better than wine. He was driven by love; love for his Father in declaring His righteousness and love for us in saving us from sin and death.

This love has evoked a kindred response from his bride. She seeks to emulate that same love to all who would aspire to be part of the bride. Christ was, for her, the only one, and all other feelings were subordinate to her love of him. As part of the bride, we too should have an ardent longing for his presence, looking for the time when we will be received by him with such affectionate greeting and acceptance.

Verse 3 describes an assessment of the bride given by the male companions of the groom referred to in 1:7.

Job lamented in his sufferings that his skin was “black upon him” ( Job 30:30). In a similar vein, Jeremiah wrote: “for the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me.” ( Jer 8:20-22). In the song before us, the bride has suffered similar adversity.“I am black,” she says, and in a sense of wonderful humility welcomes the assurance of her companions that she is “comely”.

This is a very moving point. The ecclesia is composed of both the bride and her companions. How wonderful it is, when, while we may be consumed by our shortcomings and inadequacies, our companions make no reference to them, only drawing our attention to our spiritual comeliness by placing emphasis on our positive characteristics. The wonderful thing about this book is that it is all positive. Of course we sin! Of course we fail! Of course we suffer anxiety and despair just as the bride did. But it is a wonderful consolation to see that even though the bride was unable to keep her own vineyard, (something she rectifies in the 12th Song), the groom overlooks her transgressions and inadequacies and sees her as altogether lovely. Sin is abhorrent to the Father and cannot be minimised as inconsequential, hence we are very thankful for His underserved favour in the forgiveness He offers through His son. How wonderful and heartening is this Book of Songs.

Finally, she completes her soliloquy by acknowledging her groom as the “great Shepherd of the sheep” (Heb 13:20), who out of concern for the flock, has allowed his sheep to rest from the burning heat of the sun. Indeed he careth for his sheep. She is advised by the male companions that his sheep “hear his voice”, and he “leadeth them out”, and they follow him being of his fold ( John 10:1-16; 1 Pet 2:21-25).

In the allegory, the bride deprecates her beauty. She is conscious of her imperfections. The attendant virgins, however, viewing the perfected bride, of whom they hope to form a part, only see her beauty and praise her for it. She will soon realise that, through the influence of her absent Lord (Eph 5:25-27), and her own efforts to make herself ready (Rev 19:7), she will ultimately be presented as a beautiful bride “without spot or blemish”.

How true this is of our present period of waiting. We, as individuals and as members of our ecclesia, are conscious of, and often depressed by our imperfections. Yet we know that the ideal for which we strive is perfection (Eph 4:12-16) and the day will come, when, through the grace and mercy extended to us by our groom, our imperfections shall be wiped away as tears from our eyes (Rev 21:4).

(to be continued)